Depth on the Leadership Bench

Everyone recognized Sally and Bill were great leaders. Sally led of her group for six years. Bill ran his group for two years under Sally’s leadership. Sally groomed Bill in the preceding year to replace her. After she moved on, Bill easily assumed the leadership position and started looking for his replacement.teambench-fraser-mummery Developing employees into leaders prepares organizations for both attrition and unexpected opportunities. Both Bill and Sally understood the importance of developing their next leaders for continued organizational growth and sustainment of excellence.

Many supervisors are managers rather than leaders. They are not entirely to blame. Often they were never taught how to be leaders. Why should anyone expect them to be able to teach others how to lead. Managers manage resources; leaders lead people. If an organization only views their employees as resources, they manage rather than lead them. The result is poor performance, crisis after crisis, failure to complete projects, customer dissatisfaction, and lack of growth. Failing to groom today’s managers to become leaders begins a downward spiral in leadership. Supervisors who are not exposed to leadership principals cannot pass them down to their rising stars and the bench becomes weaker.

Organizations choosing to develop leaders sometimes loose rising stars to other organizations because of the lessons they learned. Often those leaders stay even when offered more money or other incentives. They recognize organizations that value leadership through training have more to offer than money. When one star moves on, the boss turns to the bench to replace the loss. Organizations that teach leadership never have a shortage of qualified leaders. They are always looking two or three levels down selecting and training their future leaders. They have depth on the bench so the loss of one quality person does not cripple the rest of the organization. These organizations recognize developing future leaders is the most important thing they do.

leaderropes-nelohotsumaOne up and coming leader recognized the importance of developing young leaders. He examined everything the new guys and gals needed to know. He recognized it would take hundreds of hours to teach them everything. He faced a choice to move forward teaching a little at a time, or to become overwhelmed by the size of the task and quit. He decided to start small, directing three of his proteges to read an article on leadership. The following week he brought them to lunch to discuss what they learned and what ways they could apply those lessons to their own activities.

At the end of the meeting, the manager handed out three copies of the latest book on leadership theory. He challenged them all to read it in a month and gave them a date for their next lunch together. He assigned one of the younger rising stars to facilitate the next discussion. Over the course of the month, the manager met with the young woman to check her reading progress. He taught her how to facilitate the discussion at the next meeting. She did a great job resulting in the other two employees begging for a chance to run the next session. Before long, the manager’s leader development program was recognized across the organization as a model for success. Soon the leader and his followers each were selected for other leadership assignments. The big boss looked at the bench and picked someone to replace each of them and continue the cycle one little step at a time.

Leadership development can be as simple or complected as one wants to make it. Starting slowly allows the organization and its current leaders to find what works. Whether you train your people or not, some stay and some accept other opportunities. Training your future leaders today ensures your bench has depth for the future. When one person leaves, you can bet there will be someone waiting to step up to the challenge knowing they will have the training and support necessary to succeed. In order to experience continued organizational growth and sustainment of excellence, organizations must develop their next level leaders’ skills to develop depth on their bench.

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Photo Credits:

1BN Boxing Team-Fraser Mummery from http://www.flickr.com/photos/73014677@N05/8491853894/in/photolist-dWoYj3-nP6dus-eTVQZn-nFA2Z9-88jr2T-8TLXPF-dUdUqs-9LsNd7-dU8iYa-dUdQwC-n5kvSj-8YcqLU-a1YCNe-dU8cMD-4n4HcF-4CPZhg-eaFCpK-dPgkkg-fCdH6m-fEfvJu-nFFVgg-5KAmwB-8ktTwC-e36jea-hE5oza-49HGS-fAzYDB-4CUy9J-bempLr-8kqWBn-nP7dAM-f7HJ24-8RF5To-rv5yd-dU8jjk-a2QE3r-8tihQC-GYc1M-9uwcTm-dUdQ5Y-oL3fTH-dU8hia-8ku5Rw-8kqUgt-ahCwjp-aVheZ-dM7t9r-Bo2Y4E-fCWz4n-deEtb9 cropped by author

 

Both photos used under Creative Commons license

They’ve Got You Now…

At the end of Heartbreak Ridge, GSG Highway turns to CPL Jones and says something like “They don’t need me anymore, besides they got you now.” This is truly an impressive quote on many levels. Many would argue that the main character in this movie is an ideal mentor or role model, but others would argue he is the very definition of as a Level 5 Leader. One of the benefits of this discussion and analysis is that the Gunny is a fictional character and not a real person, but tDSC00585he military is full of commissioned and non-commissioned officers who are less than perfect yet meet the definition of a Level 5 Leader. This article seeks to identify why the military successfully develops so many leaders who meet this definition.

Before looking at the reasons the military generates so many great leaders, a review of Level 5 Leadership in in order. At least two authors have discussed five levels of leadership, Jim Collins and John Maxwell. Collins’ five levels appear to receive the most attention, but a comparison between both author’s writings demonstrate similar ideas for each level.

Level 5 Leaders build enduring greatness by placing the needs of the organization above their own. They blend humility with personal will-power influencing others to accomplish great things. They do the things that need doing establishing demanding standards. They do not expect perfection but rather demand excellence & continuous improvement. They bask in the reflected glory of the spotlight of success focused on those they lead. They create sustainable leadership development programs ensuring organizational success long after they leave. Level 5 Leaders are well respected attracting others who want to follow them.

While purely fictional, the actions of Gunny Highway are exaggerated but typical of many military leaders. They are humble about their achievements by acknowledging the fact they could have only achieved success through the efforts of their followers. They set high standards and expect others to meet them not occasionally, but every day. They accomplish those things that need doing whether pleasant or distasteful. They demand their followers achieve excellence and continuously improve their performance. They provide junior leaders opportunities to lead, allowing them to make mistakes, hold them accountable and permit them to try again until they succeed. These actions set an example for those future leaders to follow when promoted.

Gunny Highway’s first impression of Jones and the other members of the platoon was unfavorable. He established high standards and through his will-power influenced them to achieve those standards and succeed. The platoon went from being the laughing stock of the post to a well-respected organization capable of meeting any challenge presented. He developed other leaders such as Jones and his Lieutenant who tripped when presented problems, but learned the value of adapting, improvising and overcoming to achieve success.

At the end of the day, it was Highway and his platoon were not favorable. Previous leaders allowed them to slack off becoming regarded as a bunch of out-of-control misfits who could never succeed let along achieve excellence. Highway know one day their lives could be at stake and pushed them to achieve and exceed military standards. After an emergency deployment to rescue stranded Americans it was Highway’s platoon on the top of the hill after enduring several battles and receiving the accolades of their commander. In true Level 5 fashion, Gunny denied having accomplished much, but rather thrust his followers into the spotlight. He was humble, demonstrated tremendous will-power, set high standards, developed others, expected continuous improvement from previous excellent results and set up his unit for continued greatness for years after his retirement. Who knows, in 20 years Gunny Jones could be the one leading the charge, achieving success and passing the glory onto a well-mentored Corporal when the Commanding General teleports to that forward position. Hooah!